The summer of 1937 brought the invasion of China by Japan. "By December 13th, they had defeated the Chinese army and invaded the nation's then-capital, Nanking," wrote Kim Voynar in January 2007, by way of introducing her review of the documentary Nanking, which played at Sundance that year. The film is now available for free online viewing, thanks to our friends at SnagFilms.
As you might expect, directors Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman use archival footage and interviews with survivors to flesh out the film, but they also include "staged reading of excerpts from journals and letters by a group of actors including Woody Harrelson, Mariel Hemingway, Rosalind Chao and Jurgen Prochnow," as described by Voynar. She observed: "The scripted reading actually works more effectively than mere voiceover would have, bringing to life the people who were a part of the events that happened in Nanking during that time. War and violence are never pretty, and this is not an easy film to watch -- there is brutal and gruesome footage of the death and destruction that happened there."
The subject remains controversial in Japan, with some disputing or downplaying what happened in Nanking. As Voynar noted, "Nanking doesn't offer any easy answers -- and is it even possible to truly comprehend the mind-boggling evidence of humanity's capacity to cause hurt and suffering?" We've embedded Nanking below for your viewing convenience. Please note that it's NSFW due to the explicit historical footage included. More information is available at SnagFilms.
(Full disclosure: Nanking was produced by Ted Leonsis, founder and chairman of SnagFilms, who also serves as Vice Chairman Emeritus of AOL, the parent company of Cinematical.)